Accordion Bass Scales - Hand Position

Accordion Bass Scales

Accordion Bass Scales - Hand Position
Accordion Bass Scales – Hand Position

Accordion Bass Scales

A lot of people ask me about accordion bass scales – this page should help anyone who’s keen to teach themselves. A knowledge of these scales will in time allow you to intuitively play bass runs and fills.

First number your fingers like a piano player : 1=Thumb (but we almost never use it!)  5=Little finger. You can work out the rest.

Stradella Basses – A Transposing System

Most piano accordions have Stradella basses – two rows of basses and 3 or 4 rows of chords. The row nearest the bellows is the counterbass row, the next one in is the bass row and has a dimple on the C. One of the great things about Stradella basses is that if you learn a scale, riff or bassline you can play it in any key – just move your hand to a new start position.

There’s more about Stradella basses in my Accordion Tips and Tricks

Major Scales

First place your 4 fingers on 4 buttons of the bass row. For a scale of C Major your 4th finger should be on the C bass button. (so 5 is on F, 3 is on G and 2 is on D)

A major scale has 7 different notes – it turns out that the other 3 notes you need are on the counterbass row: reach an A with your 5th finger, E with your 4th and B with your 3rd.

Accordion Bass Scale Diagram

Now you just need to play all those notes in the right order! (C, D, E, F, G ,A ,B ,C) and you will have played a Major scale. Here’s the Music. Notes underlined with a _ are on the counterbass row.

Accordion Bass Scale C major Standard Fingering


Reach for the Floor!

Remember when you stretch for the counterbass row to reach toward the bellows AND the floor! (particularly the A with the Little finger) Make sure your hand is far enough though the backstrap to reach. Your knuckles should be in a vertical line – its easy to let your hand twist making the A hard to reach.

Alternative Fingering

You will also notice that there is an unused F# available – so yes – you can also play a scale of G here without moving your hand! AND you can move your whole hand one button towards the floor and play a C scale with “alternative fingering” – it’s useful because if you have a bassline that’s tricky to play in one way you can move your hand and play the same thing with different (hopefully easier!) fingering. Here’s the music:

Accordion Bass Scale Alternative Fingering

Minor Scales

Minor scales are a little harder – bigger stretches – but don’t be put off – like all bass parts they transpose so you only need to know 1 scale and not 12!

Here’s the music:

Accordion Bass Scales Minor Fingering

Over To You

Okay, that’s it – if you practice these you will be flying round all kinds of great basslines in no time! Get more Accordion Tips and Tricks here!


22 thoughts on “Accordion Bass Scales”

  1. George,

    That is a very helpful diagram showing the major scale for the left hand – can you do a diagram version of the minor scale as I can’t quite understand the A minor scale in just the written format…?

    Best wishes

    1. Hi Mark,
      Thanks – yes I will try to get round to a diagram for minor scales soon!

  2. Hi. I bought one accordion in Europe. this Acoordion has 120 bass but don’t have diminished chords. This accordion has three line of bass notes, for example in the Do note

    bass – line 1 – mi b
    bass – line 2 – mi
    bass – line 3 – do

    bass – chords – Major ( C )
    bass – chords – Minor ( Cm )
    bass – chords – Dominate ( C7 )

    Is not the system stradella, how is the name of this bass system?

    1. Hi Fabricio,
      One of my Beltrami’s has 3 bass rows too – but mine goes:
      bass – line 1 – la b (Ab)
      bass – line 2 – mi (E)
      bass – line 3 – do (C)

      bass – chords – Major ( C )
      bass – chords – Minor ( Cm )
      bass – chords – Dominate ( C7-but only 2 notes: the E and the Bb so you can use it as a partial Gdim too)

      Cladio Beltrami called it “French System” but I’ve never heard of anyone else using it, or of a variation like yours!
      If anyone reading this knows then please post!

      1. This is called BASSETTI bass, and it’s rarely seen outside of France. The middle finger of my left hand was damaged in a childhood accident, and it’s not very dexterous or touch sensitive so I find this configuration easier to play than STRADELLA, particularly for minor 3rd chords. My third row is configured as minor 3rds (eg. Eb in the C column). My accordion is a Roland FR4XV which is configurable, so I experimented with the configurations available, and settled on this one.
        Another advantage of this configuration is that if you select a register than blocks the 16 foot pipe (voice), then you can play triads for chords that are impossible to play in STRADELLA. I’m sure it’s not a configuration that would suit everyone, but there is some method in the madness.

  3. This is a great site! Any tips on making a smooth transition between bass chords? On a piano I have a pedal to help, but not on an accordion!

    1. Thanks Sandy!
      Smooth transitions – or legato playing on the bass side can be challenging. Here are 5 tips:
      1) Use all your fingers.
      I started using only 3 fingers and I am still lazy about using my little finger – but getting that little finger working well helps in all sorts of situations. Also you can sometimes use your thumb on the Diminished Chords!
      2) Use different fingering.
      It isn’t always obvious but you can often find a different fingering for the same buttons that might help a particular section of the music.
      3) Use different buttons.
      Sometimes a tricky bass run can be re-arranged by changing a note onto the counterbass row. Also here is a classic example of a “cheat”. If you want to play C major and then Em, you can fake the Em with the E counterbass (behind the C bass) and the G major chord. (G major with an E bass gives Em7).
      4) Use the same finger twice.
      Sometimes I slide my finger from one bass button to another – try from an E counterbass to the C bass – just lean your finger over and you can get a nice legato leaving other fingers free to jump somewhere else.
      5) Use lots of reverb!
      This only works if you are plugged in and I’m joking really but it does the same job as your piano pedal.

  4. Hello George,

    Thank you for your informative website.

    For people familiar with other instruments, one confusing aspect of the bass configuration is the thought that, for example, the root bass buttons F C G D A E are an ascending sequence. So starting with F as being the lowest and continuing *up* a major 5th for each note – that would place that E button more than two octaves above the starting F! Clearly, that’s not the case, but it’s a source of confusion that was resolved for me when someone said “the bass buttons are all in the same octave.”.

    Still I have a question about your first CMaj diagram. Going from low C to high C and back down, it indicates using the home C button for the very low C [C2 in scientific notation – two ledger lines below the bass clef staff], yet it also shows that same button (finger 4) for the octave higher C [C3 – the second space]. Clearly the same button can’t produce both notes so is the home C button low or high?

    In general and just for the root bass buttons, is the range from C2 up to B2, or from D2 up to C3, or something else?

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    1. Hi, Thanks for your intersting comments. This thing about “all the bass buttons being in the same octave” is slightly confusing because each button plays in more than one octave anyway. The Beltrami in the video has 5 octaves of reeds and I’m using them all. The lowest reed in each octave is a D but that is unusual: most accordions have C or A as their lowest tone. My Scandalli Air VI has an E as the lowest note for the lowest 2 reed banks, then a bank starting on F# and the 2 highest banks start on C!

      1. Hello George can you clarify that the home C button is used for both the low c bass and the mid C ? I don’t understand your answer. I am a beginner so sorry if I’ve missed the point

  5. Thanks for this instruction on playing bass C scale. I was looking for that. One question is how do you make the second octave? You seem to play the same buttons but sounding higher. How do you lift that octave up and down?

    1. Hi Wil,
      Yes I play the same buttons but there is no octave shift: it is an acoustic illusion! On that accordion I have 5 octaves of bass reeds so every bass note is actually sounding 5 different octaves already – My lowest tone is a D (different on other accordions) so you should hear an anomaly as I play C to D but even when I pass the “join” 4 out of 5 reeds go how the ear expects and you hear it as continuing. This is similar to the idea of Shephard Tones.

  6. Really interesting article – thank you. As a beginner accordion player (but competent piano player) I’m finding the basses the hardest to master. Something particularly confusing for me is that I have a 32 button accordion so I have no counter bases at all, just the main note, the major chord, minor chord and D7 chord. Am I correct in thinking that I can’t play most scales using just the buttons as I’m missing a B? And what can I do to replace it if I’m learning some base tunes which requires a B or B chords? Thanks in advance for any advice!

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Thanks for your comments. I think with no counterbass the nearest you can get is to play an E bass which is the 5th of a B chord. The 3rds are available too, a D for Bm and an Eb for B (major) But it’s a bit strange in most musical situations without the root B.
      Other (probably even less helpful) solutions are to change the key of the song, modify your accordion or get a different instrument!

  7. hello George. I’m teaching myself accordion. Nowhere can I find a simple answer to my question, it makes me feel like I’m an alien ! What basses go to match the right hand i.e. if you’re playing a song in C major which basses are a no no ? do you get my drift ? Many thanks in anticipation of a simple answer !

    1. Hi Brian
      This depends on the harmony of the music being played.
      A song in C major will usually use basses from the scale of C major: ie the notes c,d,e,f,g,a,b and the chords C,Dm,Em,F,G,Am and maybe Bdim (strictly “B half dim”) There are many pieces that will disobey this rule but it’s a good place to start. At the end of the day, you are the boss so if you think it sounds good : play it!
      Best wishes

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